3 Overrated Running Backs
Josh Shepardson highlights three overrated running backs in standard scoring leagues.
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The following running backs are all being drafted as RB2’s and while they each have talent, there’s more than one reason why their current ranking isn’t appropriate.
Overrated Running Backs
Andre Ellington (Cardinals)
Consensus Rank: RB #21
Ellington was a player who generated a great deal of buzz last year when he entered the season as the feature back for the Cardinals. Unfortunately, the buzz exceeded the production. The diminutive back wasn’t able to handle the punishment of being the lead dog and played in only 12 games. He carried the ball 201 times for 660 yards rushing and three touchdowns. He was, however, still an effective pass catching back with 46 receptions for 395 yards receiving and two touchdowns. His 3.3 yards per attempt rushing are an unacceptable total. The small back did little after contact, as Pro Football Focus (PFF) credited him with only 1.8 yards after contact per attempt (YCo/Att), a mark that tied with Ben Tate and Shane Vereen for the second worst among backs who played a minimum of 25% of their team’s snaps. PFF graded him out tied for 50th among all backs in overall value, and his highest grade came in blocking, yuck. Head coach Bruce Arians is still showing support to the notion that Ellington can be a feature back, but the proof is in the pudding, and Ellington’s work last year indicates he’s a change of pace back who’s best served not being overtaxed with too many touches. The club isn’t dumb, either, having spent a third-round pick on securing the services of 6-foot-1 and 224 pound David Johnson. Johnson is built like a man ready to carry the load, and Ellington is likely looking at a committee situation in which Johnson gets the goal-line work in a best case scenario. In the worst case scenario for Ellington, Johnson becomes a near every down back with Ellington only seeing work as a pass catcher. Ellington is being drafted as an RB2 and is little more than a flex option in standard scoring formats and a fringe RB2 in PPR leagues, albeit one who still carries risk for the aforementioned reasons.
Mark Ingram (Saints)
Consensus Rank: RB #14
Ingram is coming off easily his best year as a pro, rushing for 964 yards on 226 attempts and adding nine touchdown scampers. He also wasn’t a total dud in the passing game having reeled in 29 receptions for 145 yards. The back who received the second most carries was Khiry Robinson, and he was given the rock just 76 times. Unfortunately, expecting the same volume from Ingram seems like wishful thinking, even in the likely scenario the Saints air it out a bit less with Jimmy Graham now playing for the Seahawks and Kenny Stills shipped off to the Dolphins. Sean Payton has served as the head coach of the Saints since 2006 (he was suspended for the entire 2012 season), and only two times in his head coaching career has a running back for the Saints bested the 200 carry threshold. Deuce McAllister is responsible for the high water mark during Payton’s coaching era having carried the ball 244 times during Payton’s first year with the club in 2006. Ingram became just the second feature back to best the 200 carry threshold during Payton’s Saints tenure last year, and the club added C.J. Spiller this offseason to bolster the backfield. Payton has shown not only a willingness, but a desire to delegate backfield duties to numerous backs with different skill sets. The speedy Spiller will cut into Ingram’s playing time and touches. The Alabama product can be counted on to get the goal-line work, but even if he duplicates his good-but-not-great 4.3 yards per carry and 2.4 YCo/Att, he’ll need to approach his 2014 volume of carries to provide a positive return on his current draft day acquisition cost. Ingram is currently being selected as a high-end RB2, but he looks an awful lot more like a low-end/fringe RB2.
Frank Gore (Colts)
Consensus Rank: RB #13
Gore has been an incredibly effective running back in his NFL career having eclipsed 1,100 yards rushing each of the last four years, and he’s bested the 1,000 yards rushing mark in eight of 10 years in the league. That said, he’s a 32-year-old running back with over 2,400 carries to his credit. He joins a more high-octane offense in Indianapolis this year, which is definitely a plus, but let’s pump the brakes. The Colts ran 1,105 plays last year, per Pro-Football Reference, the second most in the league. The 49ers, for comparisons sake, ranked 21st with 1,009 plays run. Don’t get too excited about tempo, though, as the 49ers totaled the ninth most rushing attempts (449) and the Colts ranked 17th (415). It’s possible the Colts will run a more balanced offense with Gore on the squad, and there should be more touchdown scoring opportunities tied to a better offense, but the Colts also further bolstered their passing attack with the addition of Andre Johnson, Duron Carter and first-round pick Phillip Dorsett. Gore will also be trading in an offense that ranked third in run blocking at PFF for one that ranked 15th. Gore is the unquestioned lead horse in the Colts’ backfield, and that definitely carries value, but not mid-second round to high-third round value. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Indy, and gambling on backs over the age of 30 tends to be an unwise decision. Father time remains undefeated, and while a cliff season might be unlikely for Gore, it’s not out of the question and his draft day cost seems to completely ignore that.